We rarely ate only duck breasts at home because, like most people, we generally purchased an entire duck and prepared “our family version” of roast duck. But my oncle Charles came up with another recipe for his spa customers, using the relatively lean meat of the breasts only (the magret), avoiding oil or butter in the preparation, and relying on the dry “marinade” for extra flavor. Calling it gasconne was a subtle way of fooling his guests. Most were wealthy Parisians who had never set foot in Gascony, a region in the Southwest of France known for its ducks and geese, and, naturellement, great duck dishes. So, before tasting even a morsel of this relatively light preparation, they were primed psychologically for the heights of Gasconne delicacy.
4 duck magrets (breasts, 4 ounces each
1 tsp parsley, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
½ teaspoon finely minced shallot
8 black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
Pinch of coarse salt
Pinch of dried bay leaves, crumbled
Pinch of dried thyme leaves, crumbled
Yield: 4 Servings
In a large baking pan, mix salt, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, garlic, shallot and peppercorns. Roll the magrets in the mixture and spread them out, skin side up. Cover with plastic and refrigerate the breasts 24 hours, turning them once. Remove magrets from marinade. Wipe or rinse to remove excess seasoning; pat them dry. (Discard the marinade). Arrange the breasts, skin-side down, on broiler rack (4 inches away from heat). Broil 1-2 minutes; turn them over and broil 3-4 minutes. The magrets should be medium rare. Place on a carving board and let rest 2-3 minutes. Thinly slice the breast meat crosswise on the bias and serve.